Friday, July 06, 2007

The Ontology of Species

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon wrote in De la Nature:

An individual is nothing in the universe, a hundred or a thousand individuals are still nothing. Species are the only beings in Nature; perpetual beings, as ancient and as permanent as Nature herself; each may be considered as whole, independent of the world, a whole that was counted as one in the works of creation and that, consequently, is but one unit in Nature.

(IN Fran├žois Jacob, The Logic of Living Systems, p. 52)

Biology has made substantial advancements since Buffon wrote these words. Do these advances represent advances in ontology? Possibly natural scientists have given up discussing ontology. Does that answer the question?

What does an ontology require in order to be credible? Does an ontology have to account for reproduction? Does mimesis count, or is that more like the philosophical equivalent of spontaneous generation? Does gender count, or must there be sex? Does an ontology have to reckon with repetition, or can it be uncertain about whether repetition is possible at all? Does an ontology have to be worldly? Does an ontology have to explain the origin of beings? The demise of beings?

Is the life cycle a mechanistic concept or a zoomorphic concept? How do we understand origin and demise?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:36 AM.


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